Choices. Endless choices. Big, small, major, minor. We're all faced with choices. All day long, every day. Do I sleep in? Do I workout before work? After work? Do I want salad for lunch or eat out? What shirt do I wear? On and on and on...and these aren't even the big ones. The important ones. Lately I've been choosing to run in the evening, which has it's own set of pluses and minuses. Gorgeous scenery, good weather--but darkness falls early; I might be exhausted; a kid or dog might need me; or even worse, a beer. God knows the call of autumn beers is hard to resist. Paired with beautiful weather, good friends who love to laugh, why in hell would I want to go home and run instead of to happy hour? But choose the road, I did. At least tonight.
My run started normally enough. I had taken a week off after my last backpacking trip, not intentionally. It just worked out that way. That doesn't occur often, but I figure everything has a way of working out, and I believe occasional breaks are highly beneficial. I only take them a few times a year, so when one presents itself, I don't sweat the small stuff. Soon my thoughts turned from making sure all my reflective stuff was reflecting, to events of late--my choices to break from running, my food choices--oy vey!--my monetary choices--even my backpacking choices. My thoughts seem to jimble and jumble every-which-way-but-loose on runs, but somehow by the end, they're all worked out. As I turned onto the highway, I was treated to a stunning orange sunset. Bright orange, with a turquoise sky. Two of my favorite colors. It was so spectacular, I had to really concentrate on staying on my side of the road. It was reminiscent of the color explosions music makes for me--but that's another post. Moments like this make me feel like I could run forever--but as I turned the corner, my knee suddenly begins throbbing. This is a very busy corner, on a highway, so I was briefly distracted. Then the sight of a full Snap Fitness, with happy looking people on machines, distracted me further. I started thinking about the fact that they choose to work out inside, something I loathe and avoid at all costs. They looked, well, happy. No grimaces in sight. THAT in turn started me thinking about how different we all are, and the proof is in our choices.
By now, the knee had turned into a full leg-throb. From hip to foot, it was like someone suddenly stuck a wooden leg in place of my left one. Except for this wooden leg could feel pain--burning, hot pain with every step. I was two miles from home still. This has happened to me before; the nearest explanation I have is arthritis. If I'd BEEN closer to home, I may have walked. Only once have I actually stopped and walked. Which started my brain to thinking, "Why haven't I stopped and walked?" What is it about me that finds the idea of stopping, when so clearly indicated, unthinkable? I've been this way since childhood--stubborn, irresolute. Unable to give up. Detrimental at times. This trait, --or choice?-- often spills over into other areas in my life. (NOT that I argue. I am NOT AT ALL ARGUMENTATIVE.) Meanwhile, briefly, the sane part of my brain manages to interject with the fact that continuing to run might not be helpful since every step is so painful and I actually wonder for a split second if I've fractured something. Most of the time, I choose to ignore things like this. I ignore the fact that I can't or shouldn't do something. It's how I deal with my arthritis, which has worked well for me. It's how I dealt with my arm debacle of 2008-09. I have several friends facing health battles, and heard of more today. Diseases, incidents, accidents, all befall us; often we have no control at all over any of it. Do we control our response? Do we control our healing? One can make the case for obvious scenarios, such as amputations, paralysis, etc...can we really control our outcome? I know personally, not recovering full motion/full use of my arm was NOT an option. Not discussable. Absolutely N-O-T. My arm was Coming Back. I didn't care what any doctors said, what any physical therapists said; I only knew what I knew. And that was that this was Going To Go AWAY. In this case my trait--or choice to be stubborn--was beneficial, desirable, needed.
What about accidents? On our last backpacking trip, we knew the trail to Little Ibex Lake wasn't maintained anymore. What we didn't know was that the USFS had bermed the road, dismantled the trail, basically hid any signs of it. After two plus hours of packing around, looking for an old spur road, looking for signs of a trail, it was getting later and later. We made the choice to change plans and pack in to St. Paul Lake instead. Did we avoid a catastrophe? Maybe. If we'd continued on, and gotten lost, or far off the track, causing either a late return (by days, perhaps?) or even a "rescue", would our choice be responsible? Such events are described after as "accidents" or "tragedies". But would it have been? Had we continued, without GPS, a good topo map of the entire area, late in the day, to a lake in an untravelled, remote area of the Cabinet Wilderness, wouldn't that be a "choice" to risk everything?
Meanwhile, back In Reality: the leg is feeling slightly better. I've picked up the pace just to make it home. The thoughts about how we control, or do not control our lives in quite consuming. I've recently learned new things about how we choose our friendships, our relationships. I mean, not really learned new things, but I guess I'm still surprised by the choices people are willing to make. Or not willing to make. The news that Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman are divorcing after 30 years reminds me that no matter how solid or stead we think our life is, we still make major choices all during it--or other people make them for us. I've had friends "drop" me for choices I don't understand, or I feel are unnecessary. But to them, they felt it was their only choice. Or is it that they're letting fear make the choice? The fear of losing something? The fear of having to make ANOTHER choice? People are shocked when they hear things like the Danny/Rhea divorce. But I feel that's a brave choice. I wonder if more people want to do things like this, but the fear of the unknown--the fear of change--makes the choice for them. I don't ever want fear to make those choices. I wonder if this is where our inherent personality, our genes, comes in. Are we a person afraid of change? Of choice? It's my opinion that we are probably born with tendencies either way. It's also my opinion we are capable of change. Of learning. Of freedom. That's what choices are--freedom. We are free to choose our lives, and we do. We all do--one little choice at a time. As I started up the hill to home, the leg worsened. I figured if continuing to run had damaged it, a little farther and a little faster wouldn't probably hurt now. I sprinted --heh, as much as I could muster-- my last little bit--I chose to run.